Susie Neilson

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    How Aphasic Patients Understood the Presidential Debate

    In The President’s Speech, a 1985 essay by the late neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, he observes a group of people with aphasia, a language disorder, as they laugh uproariously at the television. The cause of their amusement is an unnamed actor-turned United States president, presumably Ronald Reagan, addressing his audience: “There he was, the […]

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    5 Paradoxical Time Travel Stories

    Can you imagine a time before we dreamed about time travel? The idea of altering an unpleasant future disclosed by an oracle, and the associated paradoxes of Fate, have been with us for millennia; but before H.G. Wells’ The Time Traveller, in 1895, the concept of time travel was wispy and of very little cultural […]

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    A Mental Disease by Any Other Name

    For Frank Russell, reinterpreting his schizophrenia as shamanism helped his symptoms.

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    The Uncanny Symbiosis of Modern Religion and Sports

    There is a church in Argentina called Iglesia Maradona. In this church, God is football—soccer—and its prophet is the renowned player Diego Armando Maradona. Founded in 1998, the year after the star’s retirement, the Church of Iglesia Maradona now has some 120,000 members worldwide, who bear its insignia D10S—a portmanteau of Dios, the Spanish word […]

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    Is Gymnastics’ Scoring System Injuring Athletes?

    It happened in an instant: a resounding crack and the bottom half of French gymnast Samir Ait Said’s leg was dangling like a marionette’s, his face contorted in pain. At the Rio Olympics, Said had just performed a thrilling triple backflip on the vault. When he landed, his leg snapped on impact. Said’s shot at […]

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    Cupping, the Rio Olympics Health Trend, Can Do More Harm Than Good

    Several days ago, when the Rio Olympics began hitting their stride, many athletes, including champion swimmer Michael Phelps, were sporting a unique look: Their muscled shoulders were spattered with, well, what? Giant purple chicken pox? Alien hickeys? Soon enough, however, the marks were demystified: They were evidence of cupping, a therapy that involves placing suction […]

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    Noise Is a Drug and New York Is Full of Addicts

    We may complain about a defining feature of the city, but we also feed off it.

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    Copyrighting DNA Is a Bad Idea

    A few years ago, molecular biologists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, along with a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, were the first to file a patent for CRISPR-Cas9. It’s a DNA-editing technology adapted from the prokaryote immune system. Cas9 is a protein that can seek out and “cut” targeted gene strands […]

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    Seven Scientists Describe Seven Kinds of Aging

    The novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez struck an optimistic note about aging: “The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time,” he once wrote. On the other hand, Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, was a bit less sentimental: “It happens fast for some people and slow for some, accidents or gravity, […]

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    How Butterfly Genitalia Inspired Nabokov’s Masterpieces

    By 1967, Vladimir Nabokov had published 15 novels and novellas and six short story collections. But as he told the Paris Review that year, “It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology”—the study and classification of butterflies—“and never written any novels at all.” […]